The 2019 season has been one to forget for the Indianapolis Colts. Sitting at a record of 6-8 with just two games to go, the Colts find themselves out of the playoff race for the fourth time in the last five seasons. While there is a lot to be disappointed about, there have been a few bright spots. One of those bright spots is upcoming free agent left tackle Anthony Castonzo playing the best football of his NFL career. The veteran left tackle has only given up three sacks and four quarterback hits on the season as he was just named a Pro Bowl Alternate for the first time in his career.
In today’s film room, we will be looking at just how good he has been in 2019 and why the Colts should pay whatever this man wants to keep him in Indy for the rest of his career.
While he is known mostly for his consistency as a pass blocker, Castonzo is a very solid run blocker overall. He isn’t as athletic as he used to be but he makes up for this by taking great angles, winning with technique, and utilizing his body position to be solid in this area. Here he is able to the second level of the Chiefs’ defense and engage the linebacker on the play. He drives the linebacker to the side while angling his body so running back Marlon Mack has a lane to cut up field. He finishes the play by pushing Mack forward and knocking the defensive pile on their backs for a first down.
The Colts run a lot of pulls and powers in their run game and require their lineman to get out into space on second and third level defensemen. While Castonzo has lost a step over the years, he still has enough speed and quickness to get out on the edge and lead the charge when needed to. Here he pulls to the outside as the lead blocker on the play. He locates the safety and is able to drive him out of bounds and out of the play to create a lane for his running back to the outside for a near first down.
While Castonzo isn’t the most powerful left tackle in football, he has put together a steady career with his strong base, good punch, and solid hand placement. The result is that he can block some of the more powerful players in football despite lacking elite strength. Here he is asked to down block on star defensive tackle Cameron Heyward. Castonzo comes down and gets his hands inside quickly on the star defensive tackle as his initial punch is able to move Heyward off his spot. Castonzo then anchors and balances himself as he is able to hold back the late bull rush that Heyward tries on the play. The result is yet another big run and a first down.
Body positioning is so important in run blocking. An offensive lineman can win with the most dominant showing of strength and athleticism but if they don’t know how to position their body, they could make life difficult for their running back. Look at how Castonzo positions his body to give Mack a run lane here. He is coming on the down block to open up a lane to the middle of the formation. Essentially, Castonzo is being asked to beat the defensive end to the interior and kick him out so Mack can hit the hole up the middle. He does exactly that as he gets to his spots and angles his body in such a way that Mack is able to accelerate up field behind him for the first down.
Castonzo is just very steady and consistent as a run blocker. He won’t wow anybody with his athleticism or strength like his running mate in Quenton Nelson. Where he does win though is with his strong punch and smarts in this area of his game. He consistently gets to his landmark and finishes his assignment on every given play. Whether it is climbing to a linebacker or down blocking a defensive tackle, Castonzo is as effective as they come.
Now to the fun stuff. Anthony Castonzo has been one of the best pass blocking left tackles in the NFL this season. He has only given up three sacks on the year and has only allowed four quarterback hits. He currently has an elite grade of 87.2 according to PFF in this department. He has been putting this season together against some of the top pass rushers in football too. Here he is against breakout sophomore Harold Landry on the left side. Landry attempts to dip around the corner but Castonzo is able to stand him up and stop his momentum with an excellent base and well timed hand placement. He completely stops one of the league’s more athletic pass rushers in his tracks.
Aggressive pass sets are the staple of the Howard Mudd and Chris Strausser system. The Colts as a result have transitioned more to using these sets in their pass blocking. For more information on aggressive pass sets and the Mudd technique, click here. Essentially though, the offensive tackle will jump defensive ends in this technique rather than waiting to engage. Here on the play-action, Castonzo does exactly that. He jumps out on speed rusher Vic Beasley and quickly engages him before he can set up his outside rush. This slows Beasley at the point of attack and opens up his chest for Castonzo to get his powerful hands inside. Once he establishes position, Castonzo widens his stance and controls the block until the whistle.
Castzono effortlessly controlled blocks on the outside all year long. Here he is matched up with Whitney Mercilus, a solid player with almost 50 career sacks. Castonzo jumps out of his set and showcases pristine foot work on the outside. He strafes down the line and patiently waits for the right opportunity to punch for the block. As soon as Mercilus flashes his hands, Castonzo punches inside and controls the block. He has a perfect base and is able to hold the block even as Mercilus attempts a late spin move. Notice Castonzo’s technique on this play though. From his foot work to his base to his well timed punch, this is textbook offensive line play by the veteran.
For a much better example of how aggressive pass sets can disrupt speed rushers, watch this next clip below. Castonzo is matched up against perhaps the greatest speed rusher in NFL history in Von Miller. Castonzo is able to initiate contact on the rush as he jumps out of his stance and punches Miller before he sets up for his move. This is able to knock the superstar pass rusher off balance as he attempts to reestablish himself on his rush. Castzono, realizing that he has the advantage now, guides Miller out the back of the pocket and out of the play. Miller still nearly touches the quarterback, because he is that good, but this is perfect technique by Castonzo to effect the speed rush early and take a star rusher out of the play.
Like I mentioned early with Castonzo’s run blocking, he isn’t the most powerful or athletic tackle in the NFL. Where he wins though is his technique and fundamentals. That is why he has found so much success this season despite facing some very talented pass rushers. Sure he has given up a couple pressures due to getting beat outright by better strength and quickness but he will always make a defender work for every inch. He will almost always be in the right spot and make every rush a battle on the outside. Watch how he re-anchors and locks down this next rush by Jason Pierre-Paul down below. Excellent stuff from the veteran tackle who has seemingly gotten better under the tutelage of Chris Strausser.
It is an unwritten rule among the Colts’ offensive lineman to finish your blocks with your defender in the ground. That was the culture established when Quenton Nelson was selected as the 6th overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. So sit back and enjoy the three best pancakes/finishers by Castonzo in 2019:
Castonzo’s strong punch on display against Joey Bosa as he knocks the Pro Bowl pass rusher to the ground.
Showcases great strength, leg drive, and torque as he drives Pro Bowl defensive end Frank Clark to the ground on Marlon Mack’s big run against the Chiefs.
Dominant down block as he slowly drives big defensive tackle Davon Godchaux into the ground on this block.
Verdict: Re-Sign him to whatever he wants
For most free agents in the NFL, it is almost always about the right price. When it comes to the Colts and negotiating with Castonzo this offseason, just about any price should be considered the right price. If he walks in and demands near 20 million dollars a year, they should pay it even. Hyperbole aside, left tackle is a difficult position to address and the Colts have a real good one in Anthony Castonzo. There should be no reason to let him go.
Realistically, he’ll likely command around 15-17 million dollars a year. With the NFL’s desperate need for good tackles and his likely Pro Bowl nod this year, he should be able to get that from the Colts. Overall though I see this situation wrapping up early in the offseason with the Colts signing their star offensive tackle to a nice deal.